Woolworths Isn’t The First Brand To Try And Cash In On Anzac Day, And It Won’t Be The Last
Anzac Day is still more than a week away and we’ve already had a big scandal; ironically, everyone is refusing to forget about the catastrophic “Lest We Forget; Fresh In Our Memories” campaign led by the Woolworths, “The Fresh Food People”.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. The public holiday is often tangled up in debates about cultural importance, militarism, jingoism, commercialisation and exploitation, and with this year marking the 100-year centenary of the battle of Gallipoli, each of these issues has transformed into a hulk-ish version of itself, leering over the nation, begging for one final showdown.
In the wake of all this, the ABC are running an expansive commentary on the nation’s relationship with Gallipoli, Russell Crowe is begging the world for one more Oscar and a disturbing number of marketing departments out there are looking for a way to casually drop their brand into the conversation.
This didn’t go well for Woolworths. They’ve apologised for causing offence and removed the campaign, while the creative agency who created it have gone totally awol, deleting every mention of the supermarket chain from their website and shutting down their whole Twitter account.
But after this obviously terrible idea was ridiculed on such a public level, many are casting a similarly critical eye over other brands.
Is this a sign we need tighter regulation on the issue, or is it simply a matter of taste?
as our fearless lads slogged up the beach at anzac cove, one desire kept them going: the establishment of a massive supermarket duopoly
— a busy mum (@marrowing) April 14, 2015
Poppies For Profit
For the last couple of weeks, Twitter user @AnzacProfit (who has asked not to be named) has been cataloguing many of these mishaps, attracting more than 300 followers in the process.
“The distinction I’m trying to draw is between organisations genuinely paying tribute and/or taking part in something wholly charitable, and those just trying to take a clip,” they told us.
“Woolworths’ effort was disgusting and tasteless, but it wasn’t a blatant money grab. They didn’t slap the rising sun logo on a bag of cat food and take half the margin. They just ham-fistedly tried to attach their brand to the next big event on the calendar. That’s what Anzac Day is now — another marketing sacrament.”
— Mikey Nicholson (@Mikey_Nicholson) April 14, 2015
But even with such strong views, the Twitter account has already been caught in a bit of an ethical grey area. Earlier this month, Anzac Profit criticised a Gallipoli-themed clothing line produced by Target which featured sweatshirts sporting the words “Spirit of Anzac” and “Lest We Forget”. There was even a $249 Gallipoli-branded swag. But the organisation have since clarified that all the profits from sales of these items go to the Camp Gallipoli Foundation — a not-for-profit group which forwards all surplus funds to the RSL and Legacy foundation.
“A lot of the professional football clubs charge hundreds for commemorative jumpers with ‘part proceeds’ going to charity,” they say. “They’re actually slapping a Digger silhouette delicately around their sponsors’ logos, selling the jumpers, giving a few bucks to charity and pocketing the rest of the margin.”
“[This has] been creeping in steadily for about a decade. I first noticed it in Melbourne with the increasing commercialisation of the annual Anzac Day AFL match. It stopped being about solemn remembrance and became a locked-in ‘event’ for everyone to sell signage and corporate boxes and hospitality packages. If they were serious about it being a respectful remembrance, everyone would be forgoing their clip, and the sponsors would vanish.”
Outside of sports, companies such as Qantas and VB have been criticised for similar reasons. The airline offered an apology last year after inviting customers to “celebrate” the holiday with discount wine; whereas VB stood by their Raise A Glass campaign, stating they donated $5 million to RSL and Legacy over the past five years.
They have a new ad out again this year.
It’s not often discussed, but there are actually official legal restrictions around the word “Anzac” which discourage this kind of widespread commercialisation.
“No person shall, without the authority of the Minister, proof whereof shall lie upon the person accused, assume or use the word ‘Anzac’ or any word resembling the word ‘Anzac’ in connexion with any trade, business, calling or profession or in connexion with any entertainment or any lottery or art union or as the name or part of the name of any private residence, boat, vehicle or charitable or other institution, or any building in connexion therewith,” reads the very comprehensive regulation.
However, given how ingrained the day is in our culture and the fact anyone can use the term “Anzac Day,” that element of the law itself usually doesn’t apply. VB doesn’t call itself the beer of the Anzacs; they just ask you to raise a glass.
When I ask the creator of Anzac Pride if there’s any way for a brand to make a meaningful tribute, they seem pretty unconvinced.
“I can’t conceive how it’s possible for a brand to plonk themselves alongside a slaughtered generation of Australasian men, and not be totally gross.”
On that note, here are the many varied ways brands would like you to honour Anzac Day this year:
Essendon’s limited edition shirt features the iconic rising sun logo, a band composed of red poppies, the names of Essendon players who served, and an extract from the Ode of Remembrance printed on the inside — you know, the bit where the washing instructions usually go.
It will cost you: $119.95.
That cash will go to: Adidas, Essendon Football Club and “part proceeds” will go to the RSL.
Designed in conjunction with the RSL, Collingwood’s special jersey features the names of Collingwood players who served, the rising sun, a traditional poppy, and the words “Lest We Forget” printed in the neckline.
It will cost you: $120
That cash will go to: Star Athletic, Collingwood Football Club and the RSL. The latter are getting part proceeds again.
This one just comes with a rising sun logo.
It will cost you: $109.95.
That cash will go to: International Sports Clothing and Fremantle Football Club. Sorry, RSL.
Sure, the Australia Mint has already issued an official centenary coin free of charge, but this year you can buy lots of them from The Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph!
It will cost you: $62.80 (for all relevant papers and additional coins).
That cash will go to: News Corp.
A News Corp Australia spokesperson has provided us with the following statement:
You literally could not come up with a better metaphor for the crass commercialisation of ANZAC Day than a "Mateship Coin".
— ABC News Intern (@ABCnewsIntern) April 13, 2015
Just for something different.
It will cost you: $159.95.
That cash will go to: Asics, Penrith Panthers, and DefenceCare. $20 from each jersey goes to the charity that helps current and ex-members of the ADF.
You love your country, right? Prove it.
It will cost you: $990.
That cash will go to: Asics, Penrith Panthers, and DefenceCare. Again, just $20 of it…
“Through the adumbration of the Gallipoli peninsula the Southern Cross illuminates through the foreshadow, radiating rays of red delineates the sacrifices and tribulation the soldiers endured to build our proud nations,” the product description reads.
“A New Zealand soldier is featured to pay homage to our brothers in arms and to remind us of the equal sacrifices they’ve made in the Gallipoli campaign. A photo of ANZAC troops charging an Ottoman trench (Australian National Archives and Records Administration, 1915) is featured.”
Atop all that is the logo for the team’s major sponsor, Newpave Asphalt.
It will cost you: $150.
That cash will go to: International Sports Clothing and the Newcastle Knights.
Buy A Ticket To Melbourne!
— Poppies for Profit (@AnzacProfit) April 8, 2015
It will cost you: $342.
That cash will go to: This guy:
Lest We Forget.